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Promising new drug targets identified for Huntington's disease
Date:3/23/2008

Research funded by the Wellcome Trust has provided a number of promising new drug targets for Huntington's disease, a neurodegenerative disease. Scientists at the University of Cambridge have identified a number of candidate drugs to investigate further which encourage cells to "eat" the malformed proteins that lead to the disease.

Huntington's disease is one of a number of degenerative diseases marked by build up of a malformed proteins in brain cells, mainly in the basal ganglia and the cerebral cortex. Normally, cells dispose of or recycle their waste material, including unwanted or misfolded proteins, through a process known as autophagy, or 'self-eating'.

The group of Professor David Rubinsztein, a Wellcome Trust Senior Clinical Fellow at the University of Cambridge, has previously shown that stimulating autophagy in the cells can be an effective way of preventing the malformed proteins from building up. However, there are currently no treatments available that slow the neurodegeneration in people with Huntington's disease. Rapamycin, an immunosuppressant used to lower the body's natural immunity in patients who receive kidney transplants, is the most promising candidate drug currently available but can have significant side effects.

Now, in research published today online in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, Professor Rubinsztein and colleagues have shown that a number of FDA-approved drugs for treatments such as migraine and hypertension are able to stimulate autophagy in fruit flies and zebrafish through unexpected pathways.

"By screening a number of drugs that have already been shown to be safe in humans, we have been able to identify some unexpected and very promising pathways involved in Huntington's," says Professor Rubinsztein. "In collaboration with Cahir OKanes group in Cambridge and Summit Plc, we have shown that these drugs can alleviate the toxicity of the Huntingtons disease mutation in cell-based, fly a
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Contact: Craig Brierley
c.brierley@wellcome.ac.uk
44-207-611-7329
Wellcome Trust
Source:Eurekalert

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